Is Repentance Required for Salvation or is such teaching a form of Works Righteousness?

If a person claiming to be a Christian embraces an ungodly lifestyle and refuses to change his or her mind and forsake this lifestyle, and they die, will they go to heaven or hell?

What if that person firmly believes that because of the sacrifice of Jesus, their sins are covered by the blood and they are under the grace of God? What if they also say that they have at one time "received Jesus as Lord and Savior"? What if they call Jesus Lord when they pray and even say, "Jesus is Lord!" on various occasions.

Many Christians believe that holiness and separation from the world are not at all required by God for those that would enter Life and escape the wrath to come – HELL. Such Christians believe that the blood of Jesus Christ covers everyone who believes that it does, and that the grace of God covers all unrepentant sinners, transgressors and workers of iniquity who believe that it does – even if they choose for now to continue living as such.

Surely there are many people who believe this way in protestant, evangelical and so-called "full gospel" churches today.

Here are the KINDS of things you MIGHT hear the more theologically educated among them say:

1. We are all sinners, aren't we? We're just sinners saved by grace. There are no "big sins" and "little sins". Sin is sin. So either you are trusting completely in Jesus' sacrifice and so you have no fear of sinning, or you are trusting your own righteousness and you haven't really embraced the gospel of the grace of God.

2. God only requires FAITH for a person to be saved. He doesn't require a change of heart from man's side. To say that God requires repentance or holiness is "legalism". It is the legalistic people who have fallen from grace.

3. When Jesus talked about "Repent, and believe the gospel" what he really meant to say was "Change your mind concerning the idea that you somehow have to work to save yourself".

4. All the commands of Jesus were not something He really expected us to follow. He just gave them to show us how rotten we are, and that we needed to trust in His free grace and stop worrying about all the things God commanded.

5. All insistence upon holiness for the Christian smacks of "trusting in your own righteousness", "works gospel" and as such it is a perversion of the true gospel of the grace of God.

These are big claims, and they sound good. But before jumping in and embracing them all without reservation, and calling THAT "trusting in Jesus" I think it is good to examine these matters in the context of the whole of the New Testament, indeed the whole of the Bible. The reason for this is that God has not changed his attitude to sin at all (He hates it). In the New Testament, God certainly reveals a perfect Sacrifice for sin – far better than the blood of bulls and goats. In the New Testament, God also makes the Holy Spirit of God more freely available. But the Spirit of God is still HOLY, and is One with the Father and the Son in hatred of sin.


It is certainly possible to take the things I am about to say in a mean-spirited and ungracious Pharisaical way, and I would never want to encourage that. We all need to approach things  from the standpoint that we are personally in need of God's grace, God's forgiveness and God's mercy more than we realize. Whenever we point the finger and find fault with someone, there is every chance that we are at some level guilty of the same thing. God resists proud self-righteous pronouncements and often such people will fall into the very sins they talk so loudly against. May God help us all to avoid this.

Having said that, to determine if a given doctrine is true, one needs to be willing to look at the whole counsel of God and see if the doctrine in question can be reconciled with everything God has said on the subject.

I contend that God has made the following truths plain enough in the Scripture.

1. God is Holy and Righteous and will judge sinners.

2. The Laws of God – which are summed up in the requirement to "Love one's neighbor as oneself" when studied and heeded, show us how sinful we are by nature.

3. God loves us and wants to provide a way out.

4. Our own efforts at pleasing God fail to do so when these things are not done by the grace of God.

5. Jesus fulfilled God's law and bore the punishment so that we could go free from that punishment.

6. The Old Testament system of sacrifices and religious obligations has been done away with by the cross of Christ.

7. Faith is the way into the Kingdom.

8. True sanctification is also by faith.

9. Faith without works, mere mental assent, has no saving power. Such faith is dead. (James 2:17)

10. Our sanctification is the will of God.

1Th 4:2  for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1Th 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

11. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Depending on Works or Being Faithful to Christ?

It is important for Christians to be faithful to Christ. He is spoken of in terms of being our espoused husband.

Paul wrote:

2Co 11:2  For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2Co 11:3  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
2Co 11:4  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

Paul was well aware that Satan may come to the Christians and tempt them in crafty ways, so as to corrupt their minds. There are MANY ways Satan can attempt to do this.

Why was Paul FEARING? He was fearing because it was possible for the Corinthians to start to worship "another Jesus", receive "another spirit", or receive a "different gospel". Is such a concern relevant today? I believe that it is.

A study of the letters to the Corinthians reveals that the kind of attack Satan was using against them was that of CARNALITY. Satan uses carnality against some people and legalism against others – usually both types of attacks, but usually one predominates. Both are equally deadly.

The Corinthians were basically a picture of "unholy charismatics" where the spiritual gifts were genuinely in operation, but people were carnal and fleshly in their mindset. These people were at the point of rejecting Paul and embracing certain ministers who seemed to be ministers of Christ, but were in fact ministers of Satan. The difference between the two actually, has to do with the kind of lifestyle and motivation they each have. This can be seen from a study of 2 Corinthians chapter 11.

If you or I are FAITHFUL to CHRIST and believe such faithfulness is vital, it does not imply that we believe that our good works have earned us forgiveness for our sins.

It does not imply that we are trusting OUR works to save us.

It just means we are clinging to our Savior in trust, and refusing to be lured by Satan into areas of sin and unbelief.

One form of unfaithfulness to Christ is to be so focused on the laws of God and one's conformity to them that one does not look to the LORD for deliverance from sin, but rather to one's own efforts.

Another form of unfaithfulness to Christ is to wilfully deny Him the love and obedience which He deserves by virtue of the fact that He is Creator, King, Savior and LORD.

A person who is NOT faithful to Christ, who does not cling to Him should not expect that God recognizes their "faith". The word for "faith" in Greek, 'pistis' is translated "faithfulness" as well as "faith". It isn't right to trust in a faith that is fundamentally "unfaithful". True faith leads to obedience. External obedience without faith does not, cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).


We as Christian are called to TRUST in a PERSON – Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We cannot divorce this person from His Words. We cannot say, "I trust in Jesus but I just can't take what He says seriously". Jesus said:

John 14:21  He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

John 14:23  Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:24  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.

To assert then, that true faith in Jesus is free to disregard what Jesus has said or to consider it a mere expose of our inherent sinfulness, is to disregard Jesus Himself, and to create "another Jesus", "another gospel" – one more after our  fleshly tastes.

I conclude it is possible to assert the necessity of repentance and holiness without trusting in one's own righteousness. Our repentance and growth in grace is unlikely to be fully complete in this present age, and as we walk with God we will always see new areas where we need to change. Nevertheless repentance and a refusal to follow the devil's enticements is an essential part of our underlying faith commitment and allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, it is the LORD who knows who is truly His, and the progress a person makes in sanctification depends greatly upon the amount of TIME they have had since they believe. I  say that it is reasonable to believe, based on the New Testament Scriptures, that a refusal to allow God to deal with one's sinful lifestyle could show that a person never has truly known the Lord or that they are in a backslidden state where any assurance they have of salvation is a false one.

What do YOU think?


About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.


  1. When a person comes to faith in Christ, and is regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that WILL cause a genuine change in motives and attitudes – though it will not instantly make the person become morally perfect. God however will accept you as perfect, because He imputes the righteousness of Jesus to the believer.
    And the believer will seek to become more holy. Being born again is the start of an ongoing journey of santification.

    BUT – if you claim that someone must make themselves righteous in order to enter into salvation to start with, as if Jesus only accepted those who were “good enough” to be saved, then you are preaching salvation by works, and your own salvation is in question.

  2. Timothy Luke says:

    1Jn 3:2-8  "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
    And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

    "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

    "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."

    The will of man is engaged in this. When we by faith believe (faith is a gift of God, as is repentance) we then purify ourselves… How? By choosing as an act of our will to walk in the spirit and deny the flesh. We engage in warfare, not as predetermined automatons, but as willfully engaged sons of God.

    God is not playing a con game. He gives us free will because He wants us to choose to give our hearts to Him and trust Him in all the things He commands us to do, that they are for our good. We learn obedience in this, even as Jesus learned obedience. Why would God give us freedom of choice, if He really already had a stacked deck? God is sincere and God is true. We have free will because He really really really has given us day to day choices in whether we serve Him unto the end or not.

    Having the hope of being like Him, it is still up to us to 'purify ourselves'. This cannot be written like this in scripture if we really do not have a continuous work in our Christian walk.

    And I agree whole heartedly that it is a work of God – working with our active cooperation. We can opt out at any time… as in the parable of the sower and the seed sown among thorn. The seed was just as good that was sown into them, it would have born fruit, but they chose the things of the world as more dear to them and became unfruitful.

    Demas is an example:

    2Ti 4:10  For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

  3. # 10- Our sanctification is also a work of God.
    “May God Himself,the God of peace sanctify you through and through.May your whole spirit,soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.
    1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    • But we must accept it. We must be willing for it. We must desire it. If we don't desire it, we must pray that God will change our desires and keep paying attention to the Word of God.

      There is a sense in which we offer ourselves up to God, but only He can supply the fire to the offering of our lives on the altar. Without God's work, there is no chance of real change. But in my view, at least, there is every indication that the free will of man – limited as it is – has a role to play. If this were not the case, and it was only God's work, why are some Christians so much more sanctified that others? Is God showing favorites?

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